Putin’s attempted “partial mobilization” of fighting-aged Russians into the war in Ukraine has prompted a wave of social displeasure, including a mass exodus of apparent draft dodgers and protests in the outlying regions where people are bearing the brunt of the war. Russian lawmaker Adam Delimkhanov, an ethnic Chechen politician known for threatening to decapitate the relatives of a human rights activist, warned university students against any display of disrespect.
“I want to tell you that, in the universities — including MGU, MGIMO — all universities in Russia, we already have an assignment from Ramzan Akhmatovych [Kadyrov], for us and our representatives to monitor every region,” said Delimkhanov, in a reference to Moscow State University and Moscow State Institute of International Relations. “If they in the regions are not coping with it, if the services are not coping, then we will manage it, and we’ll ask from everyone who defiles and insults our country, our anthem, our constitution, our president, V.V. Putin — you will all answer for this.”
Delimkhanov received the title of Hero of the Russian Federation from Putin in April, following Russia’s brutal destruction of Mariupol, the Ukrainian port city that fought block-by-block against the invasion. His message might flatter Putin, but it may not endear the Chechen leaders to potential conscripts — or the intelligence services currently responsible for internal security.
“Of course, it will anger FSB as well, I think, internally,” a senior European official with counterintelligence expertise told the Washington Examiner.
Chechen deputy Adam Deilmkhanov threatens all students of Russian universities with consequences if they stand against the regime. This is quite unheard of given he is Chechen, indicating increasing influence of this party in the country. pic.twitter.com/9fBSdP54Qn
— Dmitri (@wartranslated) October 5, 2022
Still, the warning emphasizes how Chechen forces, an ethnic and religious minority in Russia, have transitioned from the role of Putin’s favorite bogeymen to some of his most important loyalists.
“The President of Russia awarded me with the rank of colonel general,” Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov said Wednesday. “The head of state called me and asked to wish all the people of Chechnya welfare, luck, and success in his name! Despite his workload, the commander in chief never forgets about important dates in our region.”
That’s a theatrical dramatic reversal of Chechnya’s place in Russian politics throughout Putin’s career. Just weeks after then-President Boris Yeltsin tapped Putin as prime minister and heir apparent in 1999, a series of bombings across Moscow and other Russian cities furnished Putin with an excuse to launch a military offensive in Chechnya that reversed Russia’s defeat in the First Chechen War from 1994 to 1996.
Those bombings are widely suspected to have been a false flag operation by Russian security services, given that an investigation into the apparent placement of explosives in Ryazan, a city in western Russia, led to three members of the FSB — the KGB successor agency that Putin led until his appointment as prime minister.
“There was a credible body of reporting, open source and others, that this was all — all those bombings were part of a black flag operation on the part of the FSB,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Foreign Relations panel, said during a 2017 hearing. “And if you want to know the motivation, here is what it is: Putin’s approval ratings before the attacks against the Chechens were at 31%. By mid-August of that year, it was at 78% in just three months.”
The specter of Chechen terrorism has redounded to Putin’s advantage at other key junctures, such as the murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in 2015. The Kremlin attributed that killing, which occurred in the heart of Moscow, to Chechen separatists. And Kadyrov’s loyalty to Putin is just one side of a transaction that could shelter Delimkhanov from retaliation by any Russian security officials who take his warning as an insult.
“In a sense, Chechnya at the moment has been more independent than Chechnya has been, ever,” the senior European official predicted. “Nothing will happen. FSB is not doing anything in Chechnya without Kadyrov’s approval.”